Billboard company, Tarentum at odds over sign sought near Tarentum Bridge
A company that wants to put a billboard at Tarentum’s end of the Tarentum Bridge is arguing in court that the borough’s zoning ordinance does not allow them anywhere in the borough.
America First Enterprises, doing business as Oliver Outdoor, is appealing in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court a May decision by the borough’s Zoning Hearing Board denying it a variance and special exception to place the billboard atop a pole next to the bridge at 107 E. Fourth Ave.
The company appealed to the board after the borough’s code enforcement officer denied it a permit to place a billboard there because the land is in the commercial center district, where billboards are not allowed.
America First is asking the court to vacate the zoning hearing board’s decision and direct Tarentum officials to issue a permit for its billboard. The borough is asking for the decision to be upheld and the appeal denied.
The company and borough filed briefs in support of their positions Wednesday.
The two-sided digital billboard would be 48 feet wide and 14 feet high. According to the borough’s brief, it would be placed within five feet of the bridge and 10 feet above the road.
The borough notes there are no billboards in the commercial center district and that it has denied all requests to place one in that area.
Billboards are not allowed in the highway commercial and manufacturing district, where the existing billboards on the other side of the bridge are located. Those billboards predate the zoning ordinance and are therefore grandfathered, according to Anthony Bruni, the borough code enforcement officer.
In its brief, America First Enterprises argues that conflicts and contradictions throughout Tarentum’s zoning ordinance regarding billboards result in a de facto exclusion of billboards, and that as a result, the zoning ordinance is unconstitutional. The borough rejects that assessment and argues the company should not be allowed to bring up a de facto exclusion argument in court because it did not do so before the zoning hearing board.
The company states that Tarentum permits billboards only in its roadway commercial district, but no land zoned as such can be found on the borough’s zoning map.
The borough claims the roadway commercial district falls along the Route 28 corridor and admits it is an error that it doesn’t show up on the zoning map.
The roadway commercial area also falls within another zoning area, the rural resource overlay, where the borough says billboards also are permitted and where one exists along Route 28.
America First claims that, although the zoning ordinance says billboards shall be permitted in the rural resource overlay district, it refers to a subsection that does not exist and there are no regulations in the zoning ordinance for the district.
The borough states that the district is on the zoning map and the subsection does exist and is only missing from its website because of an administrative error made when the code was revised in 2014, resulting in an unintentional omission.
The borough says it is a “complete legal absurdity” that the company continues to argue that the subsection does not exist and refuses to use it.
The company notes that billboards are a conditional use in the heavy commercial district but that no such district exists in the zoning ordinance and no property zoned as such is shown on the zoning map.
The borough did not address that in its brief.
Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Brian at 724-226-4701, [email protected] or via Twitter .